If you see a penny on the sidewalk you’d pick it up, right? Well, chances are these days, you wouldn’t even bother. What can you get with a penny after all. But maybe for a nickle or a dime you’d bother to stoop over and get it. For a quarter? Absolutely! Hey, that’s laundry money. What about a one dollar bill? A twenty? A hundred? Are those fair game to keep for yourself? What’s the “limit” on what you have to turn in? And to whom do you turn it in?
Earlier this week a homeless man in Portland, Maine became the “beneficiary” of a broken ATM. Before someone intervened, according to the Bangor Daily news, “the ATM spit out more than $37,000.” Now that’s quite a payday for anyone. But for homeless man? That could have been the miracle he had been praying for. Had it not been for the woman in line behind him waiting to use the ATM. She became impatient. And quite frankly, suspicious, that he was spending so much time at the ATM. She called 911. The police showed up. The money was returned to the bank. They have declined to press charges against the homeless man.
This comes on the heals of another story out of Georgia last month. In this case a teller erroneously deposited $32,000 into the wrong account. It ended up in the account of 18-year-old Steven Fields. The error wasn’t discovered for more than a week and a half. By that time, Fields had spent nearly all of the money. His biggest purchase: a BMW. Fields was arrested and charged with theft. According to the Associated Press, he plans to hire an attorney to fight the charges, arguing it’s the bank teller’s fault. He claimed he thought the money was part of an inheritance.
Both of these cases have sparked a lot of “What would you do?” type questions across the inter-webs. While some say the banks got what they deserved others stand on the side of doing what’s right and turning the money back in. Saying that doing the “right thing” will pay off bigger dividends in the long run. You know, karma, and such. What goes around comes around.
I have to admit, I’m on the fence with this one. Only because, I’ve been in their shoes. Back, oh, a few years ago, when I was working retail, I caught some yahoo sneaking a duffel bag down into the loading dock of the store where I worked. Suspicious (like the lady waiting at the ATM) I grabbed a couple of co-workers and after we saw him leave we retrieved the bag. Inside… you guessed it. Money. And lots of it. $250,000.
We later learned he was going to use the money to buy drugs… from an undercover cop. But the deal went bad and he took off. Police were looking for him. That’s why he stashed the cash in our loading dock. He was finally arrested. And for a split second I was going to have to testify in court. Thankfully, I didn’t. Because I was sure witness protection was in my future. And I didn’t see myself living in Montana.
But, oh the times I have thought how that money could have come in handy. The problems it could have solved. Of course we didn’t keep it. We turned it in immediately. That happened a long time ago. I keep waiting for my “payback” for doing the right thing. Maybe it already happened and I’m just to shallow to have noticed. Or maybe I’m going to wake-up tomorrow and someone will be at my door with a big check!
– J. Ela